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Vic: $10m boost for tourism in bushfire regions

By Catherine Best
17 Mar 2009 4:17 PM

NARBETHONG, Vic, March 17 AAP - The federal and Victorian governments have handed over $10 million to draw tourists back into fire devastated towns.

The money will fund marketing and brand programs, go towards improving tourism facilities in parks and help bring forward planned events.

Tourism in the fire ravaged areas of Victoria's high country, Gippsland, Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges brings in more than $1.6 billion a year.

Premier John Brumby said rebuilding local economies was crucial to rebuilding economies.

"There are truly magnificent tourist attractions in these communities and we encourage people to join our governments in supporting bushfire-affected communities by spending their tourist dollars in those communities," Mr Brumby said.

The funding was just one of a large number of grants announced by the state government and bushfire appeal chairman John Landy on Tuesday.

Good Samaritan grants of up to $8,000 will help compensate businesses that went beyond the call of duty during the bushfire crisis.

Mr Landy said the grants would help relieve the hardship experienced by some businesses and individuals who rallied to support stricken communities at their own expense.

Up to 100 grants are available and applicants must be supported by at least two referees from the community.

"Right across the bushfire area I've seen these cases of people who have gone far beyond what people would expect of them in terms of opening their doors and providing food, shelter and obviously affecting the profits of their business," Mr Landy said.

"You can call them heroes, you can call them good Samaritans, or you can call them caring citizens but these people have made an enormous contribution in all the bushfire areas.

"The people have been selfless, sacrificial and inspiring."

The grants come from the Victorian Bushfire Appeal Fund, which has so far raised $246 million.

A business relief fund will also help fire affected businesses get back on their feet.

The fund, launched by the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI), was kick started with a $500,000 state government contribution.

It will draw on donations from the business community to help businesses indirectly impacted by the bushfires.

Short-term grants of up to $5,000 will be available to surviving businesses that have lost trade but in many cases are not eligible for government assistance.

Volunteer organisations who continue to help people in fire regions will also be eligible for grants of up to $5,000 or $20,000, depending on their size, the government said.

Wineries in fire affected regions have been given a $27,000 grant from the state government to test for smoke taint.

Healesville Sanctuary's Australian Wildlife Health Centre (AWHC) was also given $60,000 to continue helping animals injured in the bushfires.

The federal and state governments also announced a $51 million Business Relief Package last month for businesses damaged or destroyed by the fires.

The package offers grants of up to $25,000, subsidised low-interest loans and business restart mentors.